Sadly, that's exactly what so much of political reporting is these days: Asking the big guys what they think about the other big guys' (and occasional gals') performance, rather than their merits. Which, among other things, is just way too meta. "How do you think [he or she] came off at [his or her] [X] appearance?" "Do you think [he or she] contradicted [him- or herself] when [he or she] said Y?" These questions are so unnecessarily granular, a way to bury us in details at the expense of the big picture. And I suppose, looking again at the bottom line, a way to keep writers getting paid for churning out minuscule little tidbits.
Is all of this "industry" worth it?
That's the subtext of this blog post, which I wrote the night of the 2008 vice-presidential debate. Amid a crowd of microphone- and recorder-wielding professional reporters asking former New York mayor and presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani his thoughts on how Sarah Palin had come across in the debate, I'd played my part, wearing a little red blazer and wielding my own little recorder, and gently pushed my way to the middle of the scrum. Then I'd asked what I was later told was a "bush league" question:
It was a gotcha question, to be sure. An artless question, a question lacking in strategy or timeliness. It was all of those things—but it was also a question I genuinely wanted answered. I'd wracked my brain trying to think of something Giuliani could tell me about his support for Palin that I would actually be interested in hearing, and that was it.
He gave me the courtesy of a momentary pause to hear my question—then caught my eye for a moment, squinted balefully, and resumed his talking points. As he moved on, I stood still and let the crowd flow around me.